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FSU looks to stay alive in an Elite Eight matchup with Michigan

Florida State’s defense was nothing special during the regular season. The Seminoles ranked 186 out of 351 D1 basketball teams in scoring defense this year. Part of that was due to FSU looking to push the tempo and play as many possessions as possible. A good chunk of it, however, was from breakdowns on the defensive side of the ball allowing easy scoring opportunities by opponents. During the tournament, Florida State’s defense has looked completely different.

Florida State’s opponents have scored an average of 20 points less per game than they did in the regular season. Gonzaga’s 60 points in the Sweet 16 was their lowest scoring total of the season. In fact, it matches the fewest points scored in a game for the Zags since February of 2016.

There’s no rhyme or reason to explain why such an average defensive team flipped a switch so quickly after allowing 82 points to NIT-bound Louisville in a first round exit of the ACC Tournament, but here we are. Now, all that stands between Florida State and their first Final Four since 1972 is the No.3 seed Michigan Wolverines.

Michigan enters tonight’s game with wins over Montana, Houston, and Texas A&M in the first three rounds of the tournament. The Wolverines were dominant in their 99-72 win over the 10 seed Texas A&M but needed a miracle when freshman Jordan Poole drained a deep three-pointer at the buzzer to defeat No. 6 seed Houston.

Michigan will try to match FSU’s depth as they have ten players averaging double digits in minutes per game. That said, 86% of their offensive output comes from just 6 players. Junior forward Moritz Wagner (14.4), junior guard Charles Matthews (12.9) and senior guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (12.9) are the only players on Michigan’s roster averaging 10 or more points per game.

Michigan’s offense will be sure to test the Seminoles early and often. The Wolverine’s shoot 37% from deep on the season with all 5 starters shooting the 3 ball at 30% or better. Michigan spreads teams out and uses a lot of off-ball screens to create scoring opportunities. While it’s unlikely that Michigan will match the 62% shooting performance they had against Texas A&M again, the Noles will need to bring the same defensive intensity from the first three rounds of the tournament if they want to pull off another upset.

Outside of their opening round win against Missouri, Florida State has been the underdog in every game this tournament including tonight. The Wolverines are currently a 4.5 point favorite over the Seminoles. The game is set to tip at 8:49 p.m. est and will air on TBS.

 


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